I have been planning to buy a new desktop for almost a year; and for almost a year, something has always popped
up just as I was about to buy. After so many different ideas and configurations that never quite made it, there
was a part of me that was starting to wonder if a new desktop was even truly in the cards. Perhaps that accounts
for how surreal it felt when I actually clicked the final confirm button on the
System76 web site. Within 10 days–actually precisely 10 days as I was counting
every one–my new system, a Thelio Mira, was built, shipped, and on its way from System76 in Denver, Colorado to
little old me in Saint Paul, MN.
I hadn’t planned on a Thelio Mira to start. I knew System76 to be a hardware vendor
that specializes in laptops and desktops that are made to run Linux. They have been around for some time, and
every once in awhile I would check them out as a potential option. I loved their ethos and really liked how
they approached both their design and development, but I was happy to build my own. I always told myself that
if I was going to get a System76 system, it would be a laptop not a desktop.
I was wrong. I mean I definitely will be considering System76 for my next laptop, but I am so glad I decided
to go this route for my desktop.
Ah but, I can hear you now. “Why not build your own? You could have had more power for the same price!”
Let me start by acknowledging two key points.
- Yes, this was the most I have ever spent on a desktop system.
- Yes, I could have gotten similar components in DIY system for less.
I did a lot of research on this (like I said, I’ve been on this hunt for almost a year!). I
specced out similar hardware from a variety of boutique and large vendors. I also priced a fully self-built
solution. There is no doubt that the self-built solution was significantly cheaper. In comparison to other
vendors, the price was a much closer match and in several cases System76 was cheaper with superior hardware.
In the few boutique cases where prices were lower, I found myself having to make concessions in terms of
case design or internals. Concessions that I didn’t have to make with System76.
So, why not DIY? It was significantly cheaper, or at least it was if nothing went wrong. My concern was that
there was a very real chance that something would go wrong. This is not a great time for PC component vendors.
There have been a ton of component failures in the news. Every time I got close to deciding on a new build,
another story would surface. I didn’t really have the time to chase down individual vendors, convince them
that their component was, indeed, the issue, and then go through a full RMA process.
This system is my workstation. It is not a hobby machine. I use it to work, and I do not have the time or
energy to micro-manage support at a component level. Instead, I offload that to an organization that:
- Knows the system inside and out, with specific Linux expertise.
- Provides detailed system support and maintenance guides for work I can do at home.
- Provides lifetime support even after my paid support/warranty ends.
- Has (and this is a rarity among vendors) a fairly positive reputation when it comes to support.
Did it cost more upfront? Sure. Is it worth it to know that if there is an issue, I will be able to get it
resolved? Yes. Do you need this? Well, that is up to you. How much is your time and energy worth?
Now, beyond all the very clear rationalization I jut provided, I also want to say that I really like how
the Thelio Mira looks. I am one of those annoying people who really values a minimalist asthetic. I am even
happier when they are minimalist, stylish, and have a real attention for detail. I mean these cases come with
their own easter eggs. I am so tired of the LED-bonanza that has come to dominate modern desktop cases
and components. It was cool for a week in 2006. We can stop now. There are a few cases that I did like mostly
from Fractal (the Fractal Terra just
came out, and I may use that in a home server build), but the Thelio just really hit that sweet spot for me design-wise.
I liked the look so much that I was actually a little worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype, but that concern
disappeared when I opened the box. It is an amazing product. The case definitely made me happy, but a quick tour of
the build showed me that the same attention to detail was maintained throughout. I bought two accent pieces: the
Martian Red (it matches my ThinkVision Monitor) and the Etched PCB. For $20, I wasn’t expecting much from them, but
they have the same solid build and attention to detail that the rest of the system has including QR codes to videos
on how to swap them if you lose the instruction cards that come with them or just want to get a visual on how it is done.
So far, in my first week, I am happy. The system is fast, powerful, and whisper quiet. I did move to the System76 Linux
distro, Pop!_OS, when I bought the system. I actually migrated my laptop to Pop!_OS earlier to get a better feel for how it
works. I think that transition, going from a rolling release of OpenSUSE Tumbleweed with KDE to an Ubuntu-LTS based (as they
develop their own Comsic Desktop Environment) distribution with a modified GNOME environment, was the most difficult part of
this journey for me. In some ways, though, I think that journey ended up being a good one and I am still using Pop!_OS on this
system and my laptop. That said, I will have a whole post on that transition as there is a lot involved and this is already
So there it is. This wasn’t really a review. There are plenty of reviews out there. This is just an outline of my experience,
and me getting a chance to share something cool. It is easy to get bogged down in the all the negativity surrounding tech, but
there are still a lot of cool people and cool companies doing really awesome things with technology. Maybe that was another
reason I went with this system. I wanted to feel excited about the technology again, and honestly, I did. It’s been a long
time since I got excited about an unboxing, but I was excited to open this. I hate that I kept waiting, expecting
disappointment, at every turn, and it was so nice to never have that expectation realized. For that, System76 deserves